Monthly Archives: March 2011

Reframing Sculpture: through a 3D Lens

Between the physical and metaphysical

Reframing Sculpture: Through a 3D Lens. Images with permission from the curator and gallery

The first recipient-emerging-curator has chosen to re-view selected works through ‘3D lens’. ‘3D lens’ can refer to the curator’s 3 Different sectional titles: Off-the-wall, Light Mass and Fluid B(order). It could also refer to the ‘dimensions’ in which we understand or come to know the term ‘sculpture’.  Firstly, a flat 2 dimensional print or image of a sculpture;  secondly, the 3 dimensional physical object named a sculpture; thirdly, a transcendental, mental concept of what a sculpture is and what it can be. This reminds me of Joseph Kosuth’s conceptual art work, One and Three Chairs (1965) where Kosuth questions our understanding and appreciation of art. Do we appreciate art for its form, content or idea?

Concepts of sculpture differs between individuals. Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel (1913) or Gilbert and George’s The Singing Sculpture (1970)  are perhaps good examples where sculptures differ from public expectations of their time. For these individuals that push the audience’s understanding of sculpture, they are often more appreciated immediately for their courage.

The curator in reframing has bravely provided 3 titles to pack the works into 3 sections. These section titles could also be read as 3 definitions to stretch our understanding of sculpture, an often understated category of art in land scarce Singapore. They can apply to all the works in the exhibition and reframe our perception of each work. These definitions emerge slowly but surely  to group the works into some coherent form.

The works on exhibit mostly defy classification as sculpture, opting more a more snazzy term, installation. And Installation can be sculpture, in the expanded field and definition.  This includes works by Dorathy Lye, Tay Pei Inn and Tang Li Jen. Other than installation, prints and photographs about ‘form’, ‘mass’, ‘weight’ seem the thread around the subject of sculpture.  This includes works by Zaki Zulfakar Noordin and Hyun Sun Jo. The work by Heng Swee Kiang can best be described as circumventing making sculpture altogether and opting to reveal the most primal elements in sculpture.

Dorathy Lye’s descriptive 589 Days (2008-2010), The Leaning Tower ofKnowledge (2008-2010), The Supersized Reader (2008-10) serves as a catharsis,  revealing a higher degree’s academicised construct of 3 dimensional objects. The play on titles and process suggest wit and irony, in an analogous colour to polished bronze.

Tay Pei Inn’s Fruit of the Spirit series (2003) cleverly expands its own form and weight by finding arrangement on walls and plinths. Organic in form, they resemble fishes leaping on a caught net.

Tang Li Jen’s works require the audience’s presence to be felt. Interactive in nature, they draw feign lines, make sounds or in the case of OB Markers (1999) embarass the quick fingered viewer. Drawing Machines I to III attempt to define the audience presence in an exhibition and make the viewer an active maker of the work.

Zaki Zulfakar Noordin’s more successful prints, Route (2010) reveals nature’s interaction with urban space through snow fall, and subsequently trail marks of footsteps on fallen snow. In a situationist aesthetics, the protagonist or true artist of the work depends on what the viewer defines as the artwork. Is it the snowfall, trail of footsteps or photographs that define the work?

Hyun Sun Jo’s Iceberg (2009) screenprints attempt to explore the illusion of 3 dimensional form on a 2 dimensional printed surface. The superimposed ‘brushmarks’ cancel the illusion harshly, reminding the viewer that they are only looking at a flat image.

The group of works coached by Heng Swee Kiang is perhaps the outlier in the exhibition. The group of aluminum sculptures would benefit with a clearer explanation of the concept of the intent of the exercise or intent of the works. By revealing the process of ‘forming’ a 3 dimensional object from sheets of aluminum is conceptually interesting but this failed to look its part.

The 3 sectional titles can be read differently. These titles could be read as critical statements on sculpture in Singapore. Light Mass can refer to a ‘lightness’ of materials used in sculpture. We see less use of traditional materials such as bronze and ceramics  compared with a contemporary undecided aesthetics – mixed media. In this exhibition, only some of Dorathy Lye’s works used bronze. Light Mass questions the artists’ use of materials, mass, weight and strength to communicate their artistic message.  It seems to suggest that lighter but durable new materials need to be explored in sculpture making. Off the Wall suggests a quick fix mentality where everything else that doesn’t hang on the wall is a sculpture. The craft of a  3 dimensional object is precariously subordinated to its idea. Fluid B(order) on the other hand comments on the flexibility in contemporary art making and reading that allows any material to be used in and recognised as art. Artists increasingly refuse categorisation of their work, finding it restrictive to be called a sculptor than a visual artist.

Read in this light, the exhibition is a democratic and honest view of sculpture in Singapore and avoids the grand narrative of redefining what sculpture is or is not.

7.0 of 10 stars

Sculpture Square, Chapel Gallery

11 – 26 March 2011